THE Highland Games is well upon us with over 80 events taking place across Scotland, attracting over 150,000 visitors and generating millions of pounds.
The event dates back around a thousand years ago beginning with an order of a Clan Chief, and the Games continue to prove to be a big draw in villages, towns and cities around the country - as well as hundreds more games around the world.
The Highland Games are one of Scotland’s biggest cultural exports - with around 80 events welcoming over 150,000 visitors annually, many of them from overseas, including those with Scottish ancestry.
It is worth an estimated £25million to the Scottish economy.
The Games date back 1,000 years ago to Deeside, where the strongest and bravest Clan soldiers would compete against each other.
The first historical reference is made during the reign of King Malcolm III (1057-1093) when he summoned men to race up Craig Choinnich near Braemar in order to find a royal messenger.
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “Highland Games are a unique traditional event, with around 80 taking place on islands and in towns, villages and cities across Scotland, usually between May and September.
“We know from research that these events are extremely popular and attract visitors from right around the globe, many of whom also partake in events on the day.
“They are an incredibly important part of our country’s cultural identity, featuring Highland dancing, bagpipes and drums, clan celebrations as well as demonstrating sporting prowess in the heavy events.
“They also provide a boost to the local visitor economy, with accommodation providers, shops, restaurants and local businesses all benefiting from the influx of extra visitors which Highland Games bring.
READ MORE: A history of the Scottish Highland Games
“VisitScotland works closely with communities and businesses to showcase the rich assets, hidden gems and local stories of every region in Scotland.”
Visitors travel from far and abroad, and also locally, to witness some of the amazing events on show.
There is the traditional heavy athletic like tug-o-war and the caber toss, as well as Highland dance competitions, track and field events, and piping.
VisitScotland say the games are a spectacle like no other, taking place against a scenic Scottish backdrop.
Heavy contests, including the hammer throw and weight for height, see competitors putting their muscles to the test, while field events such as the hill race and cycling competition test speed and stamina.
According to VisitScotland, Baron Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, was so impressed by a Highland display he saw at the 1889 Paris Exhibition that he introduced the hammer throw, shot put and the tug o’ war to his competition.
The former two are still included in the Olympics programme to this day.
For many, one of the most memorable sights of the Highland games is the massed bands, when hundreds of pipers and drummers from different groups come together to play and march in unison.
Highland dancers also give displays of fancy footwork in Scottish dances, such as the sword dance and the famous Highland fling.
A VisitScotland spokesman said: “Highland games once saw clan members go head-to-head in fierce competition - and you’ll still see this enthusiasm when clans muster all their might in a tug-war.
“These days, clan attendance at games is now more of a social and ceremonial affair. Some Highland games are part of a wider clan gathering - a celebratory get-together featuring parades, Scottish music and dancing, feasts, heritage events and much joviality.”
The Highland Games events kicked off last month in Fochabers on 21 May. There are dozens more to follow.
This weekend there are games at Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, and also the City of Aberdeen Highland Games.
The remaining highland Games in Scotland are as follows:
European Pipe Band Championships: 24 June, Forres, Moray.
Drumtochty Highland Games: 24 June, Auchinblae, Laurencekirk.
Ceres Highland Games: 24 June, Fife.
Gairloch Highland Gathering: 1 July, Gairloch, Ross-shire.
Luss Highland Games: 1 July.
Thornton Highland Gathering: 1 July, Fife.
Kenmore Highland Games: 5 July, Aberfeldy, Perthshire.
Braemar Junior Highland Games: 8 July, Aberdeenshire.
Forres Highland Games: 8 July, Moray.
Alva Highland Games, 8 July Stirling.
Tain Highland Gathering: 8 July, Glen Morangie Field, Tain.
Loch Lomond Highland Games: 15 July, Balloch, Loch Lomond.
Inverness Highland Games, 15 July.
Tomintoul Highland Games, 15 July, Moray.
Lochcarron Highland Games: 15 July, Strathcarron, Wester Ross.
Stonehaven Highland Games: 16 July.
Kinlochard Gathering: 16 July, Stirling.
Rosneath and Clynder Highland Games: 16 July 2017 Howie Park, Rosneath, Argyll.
Burntisland Highland Games: 17 July, Fife.
Inveraray Traditional Highland Games: 18 July, Argyll.
Mull Highland Games: 20 July, Tobermory, Isle of Mull.
Airth Highland Games: 22 July, Wilderness, Airth, Falkirk.
Taynuilt Highland Games: 22 July, Argyll.
Lochearnhead and Balquhidder Games: 22 July.
Southend Highland Games: 24 July, Campbeltown, Argyll.
Durness Highland Gathering: 28 July, Durness, Sutherland.
Glengarry Highland Games: 28 - 29 July, Invergarry, Inverness-shire.
Scottish Pipe Band Championship: 29 July, Levengrove Park, Woodyard Road, Dumbarton.
Dufftown Highland Games: 29 July, Moray.
Halkirk Highland Games: 29 July, Thurso, Caithness.
St Andrews Highland Games: 30 July.
Killin International Highland Games: 3 August, Perthshire.
Dornoch Highland Gathering: 4 August, Ross-shire.
Aboyne Highland Games: 5 August, Aberdeenshire.
Newtonmore Highland Games: 5 August, Inverness-shire.
North Berwick International Highland Games: 5 August, East Lothian.
Brodick Highland Games: 5 August, Isle of Arran.
Dundonald Highland Games: 5 August.
Inverkeithing Highland Games: 5 August, Dunfermline.
Aberlour Strathspey Highland Games: 5 August, Moray.
Bridge of Allan Highland Games: 6 August, Stirling.
Piping Live: 7 - 13 August 2016 Cowcaddens, Glasgow.
Skye Highland Games: 9 August, Portree.
Ballater Highland Games: 10 August, Aberdeenshire.
World Pipe Band Championships: 11 - 12 August, Greendyke Street, Glasgow.
Assynt Highland Games : 11 August, Lochinver, Sutherland.
Atholl and Breadalbane Highland Gathering: 12 August, Aberfeldy, Perthshire.
Abernethy Highland Games: 12 August, Nethybridge, Inverness-shire.
Strathpeffer Highland Gathering: 12 August, Ross-shire.
Perth Highland Games: 13 August.
Glenisla Highland Games: 18 August, Blairgowrie.
Helmsdale Highland Games: 19 August, Sutherland.
Glenfinnan Gathering and Highland Games: 19 August, Inverness-shire.
Nairn Highland Games: 19 August.
Stirling Highland Games: 19 August.
Crieff Highland Gathering: 20 August, Perth.
Cowal Highland Gathering: 24-26 August, Dunoon.
Oban Highland Games: 24 August, Argyll.
Glenurquhart Highland Gathering and Games: 26 August, Drumnadrochit, Inverness-shire.
Birnam Highland Games: 26 August, Dunkeld, Perthshire.
Strathardle Highland Gathering and Games: 26 August, Bannerfield, Kirkmichael.
Lonach Highland Gathering and Games: 26 August, Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.
Grantown on Spey Highland Games: 27 August.
Braemar Gathering: 2September, Aberdeenshire.
Pitlochry Highland Games: 9 September, Perthshire.
Invercharron Highland Games: 16 September, Bonar Bridge, Sutherland.